A spoiler is an automotive aerodynamic device whose intended design function is to ’spoil’ unfavorable air movement across a body of a vehicle of some kind in motion. This can result in improved vehicle stability by decreasing lift that may cause unpredictable handling in a car at speed. Spoilers are often fitted to race and high-performance sports cars, although they have become common on passenger vehicles, as well. Some spoilers are added to cars primarily for styling purposes and have either little aerodynamic benefit or even make the aerodynamics worse.
Spoilers for automobiles are often incorrectly confused with, or even used interchangeably with, wings. Automotive wings are devices whose intended design is to lessen the effect of drag by generating lift, or to generate down force as air passes around them, not simply disrupt existing airflow patterns.
The main design goal of a spoiler in passenger vehicles is to reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency. While many often imitate wings and airfoils, these serve mostly decorational purposes. Passenger vehicles can be equipped with front and rear spoilers. Front spoilers, found beneath the bumper, are mainly used to direct air flow away from the tires to the underbody where the drag coefficient is less. Rear spoilers, which modify the transition in shape between the roof and the rear and the trunk and the rear, act to minimize the turbulence at the rear of the vehicle.
Sports cars are most commonly seen with front and rear spoilers. Even though these vehicles typically have a more rigid chassis and a stiffer suspension to aid in high speed maneuverability, a spoiler can still be beneficial. This is because many vehicles have a fairly steep downward angle going from the rear edge of the roof down to the trunk or tail of the car. At high speeds, air flowing across the roof tumbles over this edge, causing air flow separation. The flow of air becomes turbulent and a low-pressure zone is created, increasing drag and instability (see Bernoulli effect). Adding a rear spoilers makes the air “see” a longer, gentler slope from the roof to the spoiler, which helps to delay flow separation. This decreases drag, increases fuel economy, and helps keep the rear window clean.